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Your I-9 forms: The 5 most common mistakes … and how to avoid them

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

by Montserrat Miller, Esq.

It's remarkable that a seemingly simple, one-page form can cause so many headaches. But who ever said a government form was easy?

A quick primer: The Employment Eligibility Verification — or I-9 — form verifies a worker's employment eligibility through his or her identity and work authorization documents. The form must be completed and maintained for all employees (citizens and noncitizens), and employers must have an I-9 for all employees hired after Nov. 6, 1986.

Remember: Completing the Form I-9 is mandatory for all employees.

Too often, company execs and HR managers assume their I-9 compliance practices are in order when, in fact, their records and policies are a shambles, leaving the business and individuals open to fines and liability. Are you sure that your I-9 practices can pass muster? Order our timely audio recording to find out: I-9 Compliance Workshop: Best Practices to Survive the New ICE Storm
Here are the most common mistakes employers make:

1. Using an outdated version of the I-9.
A new version was released last year. You’ll find an edition or revision date in the lower right corner of the form. Currently, the version with the date 08/07/09 is required, although the form with the date 02/02/09 is also accepted.

2. Failing to fully complete the form. Sounds simple enough, but we often see that employers simply don’t complete the entire I-9. One idea: Keep in your files a fully completed form as an example to ensure that you include the appropriate information in all sections each time you complete a new I-9. Another idea: Have a blank I-9 and highlight the sections that must be completed to ensure you are doing so.

3. Not using Section 3. Section 3 can save time and paperwork when used properly to update certain information. Use Section 3 to update:
  • An employee’s name if it changes due to marriage or other reasons.
  • When an employee leaves your workforce and is rehired within three years of the date the form was originally completed.
  • A current employee’s work authorization if it is about to expire.
In November 2009, ICE conducted more than 1,000 I-9 audits. Develop solid, audit-proof I-9 practices for your company by ordering this important audio recording today I-9 Compliance Workshop: Best Practices to Survive the New ICE Storm

4. Photocopying only part of a document. As an employer, you have the option whether or not to photocopy the documents presented by employees (driver’s license, etc.). If you choose to keep photocopies of documents, make sure you photocopy both sides of the document—not just the front side.

5. “Over-documentation” in Section 2. An employer must verify identity and work authorization by allowing the worker to present either an acceptable List A document or List B and List C documents.  You don’t need List A, B and C documents.

It is not unusual to see employers—particularly when faced with noncitizen employees or those with Hispanic surnames—to require that they provide a List A permanent resident card and then a List C Social Security card, for instance.

This is not acceptable. Doing so can lead to claims of discrimination on the basis of national origin and/or citizenship because you’re treating these people differently than U.S.-born employees.

Learn I-9 compliance from a true immigration law expert and Washington insider. Attorney Dawn M. Lurie of Greenberg Traurig in Washington, D.C., represents employers on immigration and I-9 issues and has defended companies in high-profile I-9 and E-Verify cases.

Specifically, you will learn:
  • I-9 101. Discover the 10 essential steps to correctly fill out an I-9.
  • Documents. Which documents can you review for Lists A, B and C—and what has changed since last April?
  • Copying. Should you make copies of driver’s licenses and other supporting documents?
  • Review. How far are you required to go to determine if a document is “genuine”?
  • Retention. Where must you store I-9s? Is a “binder system” the best? And how long must you retain them … 1 year, 3 years, more?
  • Disposal. What’s the proper way to discard of I-9s—must you shred them?
  • Reverification. How can you handle reverification in the most legally safe and efficient way possible?
  • Internal audits. What can be corrected and who should be auditing?
  • Best Practices. What else should we be doing?
  • Electronic I-9 systems. What to consider when going paperless.

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